24 September - Happy birthday Ali!
Law of averages, we had to get a better night’s sleep - and that was last night. Despite being parked alongside the road, it was fairly quiet, and roadside lighting not too bright - and we were tired!
We’ve now caught up with Strictly, and we’ve said it before in previous years - but some excellent dances for only the first week.
I was driving for about 2 hours today - but at least 20 minutes of that was servicing Dave. It was en route, so we stopped off - €2 for 20 minutes water - possibly the slowest fill up ever! Filled up, then washed all the outside of Dave too.
We drove to Aix-en-Provence. We arrived at the first place we’d put co-ordinates in for - but it was full, and I had to reverse out. Plan B is paid parking - €4 which allows us until 8.30 tomorrow morning. Think it’s free from 7pm. Anyway, better because it’s closer to the main tourist area.
So, from my trusted guide book - Aix-en-Provence (population 143,000) is described as a pocket of left-bank Parisian chic deep in Provence. It has leafy boulevards and public squares lined with 17th and 18th century mansions. Lots of fountains too. Aix is a student hub, although pricier than other Provençal towns.
The Cours Mirabeau is the majestic avenue which is 440m long - full of shops, cafes and restaurants. Paul Cèzanne (1839-1906) is revered here. You can see where he lived, ate, drank, studied and painted (if you’re interested!).
As ever, we were 30 minutes too early for the tourist information office to be open after lunch! When they opened we picked up a map. The general feel seems to be you come here for the general ambiance, rather than anything absolutely ‘must see’.
Our first visit was to the north facing largest green wall in France. Must have fun trimming that! On the south side is the largest urban water wall in Europe - just not working today! It’s 700sq mtrs and 17m of waterfall - would have been lovely!
The sign saying AIX smelt lovely, full of fresh roses.
I even got Tintin into a couple of clothes shops, probably as much to cool off as anything!
The largest fountain topped by three marble statues, with lions around it is rather spectacular - also nice that main traffic isn’t allowed to drive around it.
We were a bit aimless today, wandered up the main Cours Mirabeau, (huge Avenue) headed off via lots of little squares and saw the Palais de Justice (completed in 1832) - lovely open expanse inside with columns everywhere and a shiny marble floor.
The Hôtel de Ville has an Italian-style facade, carved wooden doors (1670) and an old town belfry with astronomical clock (1661).
The street up to the cathedral had lots of interesting little shops selling lavender products, fresh madeleines (queue too long on way back to buy any) and a shop I know my Mum couldn’t avoid - nougat! - the lady was even giving out free samples.
The cathedral had architectural styles from the 5th to 17th century. Have to say, didn’t really like the inside. It was huge, but really quite dark. Very different altar though.
We walked for over three hours (about 11,000 steps on my inaccurate phone app!), and we’re both surprisingly tired and pleased to get back to Dave for a sit down and cup of tea/coffee.
We felt underdressed in shorts/t-shirts, as lots of people were wearing jeans, hoodies etc - but it’s still been about 28°!
Bailey still very much on our minds, although my aunt Norma was quite correct in saying at least we know what happened to him. His sister, Lexi went missing 8 years ago, and to this day we don’t know what happened to her. And yes, I still think I might see her and stop at every dinky black and white cat I see when walking around home!
Terrible things happen every day. On Monday when Tintin was driving I saw the aftermath of an accident at a roundabout - ambulance and fire crew were there, but all people passing could see the poor man laying on his back with blood coming from somewhere, and he was fitting - once seen, can’t unsee. Also, it’s the not knowing whether he had a happy outcome...
Big bowl of roasted veg tonight, peppers, courgettes, onions, tomatoes etc - with of course herbs de Provence! I’m sure we’ll supplement the goodness with some chocolate later on!
We also need to decide where to go tomorrow, as we’ll leave here early. I think we’d both probably like to visit a small place without lots to go and see!
More photos from today